Dr. Roberta Satow is the author of Doing the Right Thing: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents Even if They Didn’t Take Care of You and the novel, Two Sisters of Coyoacan. She is Professor Emerita of Sociology at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is also a psychoanalyst and writes a blog for Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-after- 50) about personality problems that interfere in success in relationships and at work.
What do I do best?
I am a good listener and can hear the subtext of what someone is saying even when they might not be aware of it. This was extremely useful in my interviews of caregivers for my book, Doing the Right Thing: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents Even if They Didn’t Take Care of You (Tarcher/Penguin 2006). I can also explain complicated things in a way that everyone can understand. This is my strength as a teacher, therapist and speaker.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I am persistent. When things do not come out the way I want them to, I try another approach and then another—until I get the result I’m after OR I revise the original goal, making it more realistic. I am good at revising—whether it’s my writing or myself. I’m able to take in what the other person feels about me and apologize when I have hurt their feelings and miss the mark. I wrote a blog about the importance of being able to apologize for Psychology Today.
What are my aspirations?
I love speaking to audiences about psychoanalytic topics as well as my novel. I would like to find more speaking opportunities.
My personal goal is to revise my second novel which is semi-autobiographical. It’s a coming of age story about the relationship between a young woman, her psychoanalyst and her mother.
My Biggest Success?
I have just published a novel entitled: Two Sisters of Coyoacán. Based on a true story, it brings the conflicts of the artistic, intellectual and political world of New York, Paris and Coyoacán, Mexico in the 1930’s to life. The novel follows the life of two sisters who unknowingly become entangled in a plot conceived by Stalin to eliminate a powerful enemy.
My Most Challenging Moment?
I self-published my novel because I was unable to get an agent to represent me. I got a stream of responses that went from no response (that is a “response”) to "it's not commercial.” I eagerly awaited each response and then when it arrived I descended into a feeling of worthlessness.
I finally decided to publish it myself. But that involved a sort of "coming out." I had to risk that friends and family would say it was poorly written or too light-weight or boring. What if they didn't want to read it? Or started reading it and didn't want to finish because it didn't engage them? What would my patients and my children say about the sex scenes? What would writer friends say about the character development? Each month the members of my book group pass judgment on novels that authors have spent years writing by saying: "It's just boring;" "The writing is sophomoric;" or about the characters, "Who cares?"
I was afraid to publish it without having reassurance that it was not terrible--an agent who liked it and an editor who liked it enough to buy it. But then, finally, after writing and revising for many years, I was ready to take the risk. I felt it was putting my "real self" out there for people to judge. I felt it was the biggest risk I had ever taken--other than getting married.
“Everything comes in mixed packages.”
My Favorite People/Role Models?
Apart from my husband, my two sons are my favorite people. They are both very socially conscious, give as much as they can to good causes; have worked hard to find work that is satisfying and meaningful; and are devoted friends, fathers and husbands. Also, I laugh more with them than anyone else.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
My husband and I go to London frequently and binge on the theater.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
I love orchids and try to find unusual ones—I enjoy the challenge of getting them to re-bloom.
My Current Passions?
I have a blog for Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-after-50, which I love because it gives me the opportunity to discuss my ideas as I think of them, in short pieces, rather than having to spend years on a book or journal article. It’s exciting to sit down and write about something that strikes me in the newspaper; in conversation with a friend; or in a session with a patient.